It saddened me as I put the surf rods in the storage closet. This summer, we did well in our endevour to spend every weekend surf fishing at the beach,greeting the sunrise with excitement, knowing in the next five or six hours, we would be cleaning fresh Whiting, Croaker, or whatever we were lucky enough to catch.
The sound of the water, the feeling of freedom, as you look past the horizon. The wonder of the expanse above, while wondering what is below.
That’s what my mind saw and felt today, as the memories of the last few months replayed themselves and I realized we wouldn’t be heading back until next spring. Living on the coast, we have the ocean, salt water rivers, and fresh water lakes and river. Everything here is seasonal, and although I know when we leave one body of water, we are heading to another one, the beach is my favorite.
Isn’t it funny that you only remember the good stuff? Beach fishing is tough. Imagine a beach cart, loaded with three 15 foot rods, a cooler full of ice, umbrella, food cooler, cast net, tackle, 12 foot “Baby Rod” (That’s what Johnny calls mine. That Ande is tough tho!), sand flea rake…. I know I’m forgetting stuff.. Oh yeah. My camera. My camera goes everywhere.
The first thing you see when you get to the beach is the cross walk. Unload the cart off the truck and pull it up the walk. It probably weighs 65-70 pounds. Adrenaline usually helps, because you know in 10 minutes, rods will be in the water. Over the walk, and into the unforgiving sand. That’s the hard part. The sand. But it’s worth it. Walk until he says stop, which is always too far from where we started. And then out of no where, he says “Here.” And now we are ready to officially start our morning. As the sky shows the promise of a sunrise, we are working.
Johnny gets busy putting the rod holders in the sand, somehow spaced perfectly. I always take the one on the left, because I’m left-handed, and I like the feeling of space. Plus, he says I’m not afraid to shank the 12′ Ande’ now and then, so I try to stay out of his way. While he’s still putting the holders in place, I go behind him and bait and cast my rod. On a good day, he won’t get done before I get the first fish. Whiting usually. Great eating. Croakers were pounding us for a solid three weeks, and I have to say, they are the sweetest…..
When the rods start going off, it’s not fun anymore. Its focus, speed, and agility. Penn Squidders are his reel of choice, and all three of his 15 foot Ugly Sticks are equipped the same. No line levelers make me work even harder, and I always curse while he is yelling, “Get the rod! It’s a Pompano! Reel! Reel! Reel!” When I bring in a whiting, catfish. or shark, he is just grinning. He doesn’t care what comes in, he just “Loves to see the rod bend.” It can be bedlam for about an hour. Four rods, oftentimes two going off at the same time.
When I think I can’t run anymore, and my arms are tired, they quit biting. Stop. Nothing. Fifteen minutes go by. I check the bait. Re-cast. And then I realize we are done for a while. Finally I get to sit and enjoy some coffee. Put the umbrella up over the cooler to keep the ice as long as possible. And just relax.
I realize why tourists come here. The sand feels good under my feet. The wind is coming off the water, and the sun is high enough to put my sun glasses on. The lull of the waves relaxes one to the point of making you think you could stay in this spot forever. The coffee tastes better here. I don’t know what it is, but it’s always the same.
This is when I see who’s around as far as my sentry’s. Those are the birds. When the Ibis show up, we know the sand fleas will be up in an hour. Amazing, but true…… Johnny is deadly with a sand flea rake, and the fish love ‘fleas, so we always have bait. He just has to beat the birds to the bounty sometimes.
Then there are the little birds. The Sanderlings. They find the fleas too. The Gulls and Terns show where the near shore bait is, and the Osprey will show where the schools of fish we want are, as they soar above.
Even the little ghost crabs make me smile, as they try to figure out a way to something bigger than them into their hole.
When Daylight Savings Time starts next weekend on the east coast, I will not be happy. Our days at the beach surf fishing are over for the season, and I know that right around the corner, cooler nights precede cold days. Coupled with the shorter days that put the sun to bed around 6 p.m., I already miss summer. The surf rods are sad……………………….